When Elvis began rising to fame, Frank Sinatra did not try to hide his disdain for the other man. Sinatra didn’t like rock ‘n’ roll and publicly bemoaned the genre’s rise. It’s also possible that there was a measure of jealousy in Sinatra’s dislike, as Elvis was captivating crowds in the same way he had in the 1940s. Adding friction to their dynamic was the fact that both men were reportedly dating actor and dancer Juliet Prowse at the same time.
Frank Sinatra didn’t like Elvis when he first rose to fame
During Elvis’ explosive rise to fame, Sinatra spoke out against the music he was making, describing it as “the most brutal, ugly, degenerate, vicious form of expression it has been my displeasure to hear.”
“It fosters almost totally negative and destructive reactions in young people,” he wrote in 1957, per the book Sinatra: The Chairman by James Kaplan, adding, “It smells phony and false. It is sung, played, and written for the most part by cretinous goons and by means of its almost imbecilic reiterations of sly, lewd — in plain fact dirty — lyrics … manages to be the martial music of every sideburned delinquent on the face of the earth. This rancid smelling aphrodisiac I deplore.”
Elvis responded to these comments, noting that while he admired Sinatra he didn’t think he should be so harsh.
“I admire that man, he has a right to say what he wants to say,” he said. “He is a great success and a fine actor, but I don’t think he should have said it. He is mistaken about this. This is a trend, just the same as he faced when he started years ago.”
Both men dated the same woman
Prowse was a South African actor and dancer who met both Sinatra and Elvis on film sets. She first became involved with Sinatra, who she met while filming the 1960 film Can Can. He took an interest in her immediately, and the pair soon became romantically linked. Per The Independent, he described her as “the sexiest dancer I’ve ever seen.”
Prowse met Elvis while filming the 1960 film G.I. Blues, which she began filming immediately after Can Can. Though she was involved with Sinatra, she began an affair with Elvis. The simultaneous relationships were fodder for gossip columns at the time, which frustrated Prowse.
“I had a date or two with Elvis — he’s a nice, polite chap — but we’re definitely not a steady item as some columnists say,” Prowse said in 1960, per the LA Times. “Yes, I see Frank Sinatra quite often. We’re good friends. And I’m very tired of some people trying to dig up a ‘triangle’ situation. It’s ridiculous.”
She also noted that while she was primarily with Sinatra, they weren’t necessarily exclusive.
“Frank and I are mature people,” she said, per The Washington Post. “We don’t go for this teenage bit about going steady and all that jazz.”
Eventually, Sinatra proposed to Prowse. She would later break off their engagement, as he wanted her to take a step back from her career.
Frank Sinatra issued a statement after Elvis’ death
While their relationship was a bit tense, Sinatra and Elvis would eventually reach a kind of understanding. Elvis appeared on a Sinatra television special, and they seemed to genuinely enjoy performing together.
Per the book Elvis: The Biography by Jerry Hopkins, Sinatra made a statement honoring Elvis after his death.
“We lost a good friend,” he said.